In addition to being a writer, I’m also a designer. Most of my career has been spent around screen and digital printing so most of my design skills have developed around graphic design and color and material design. These skills have served me well, and I have successfully translated these skills into woodworking and other design applications but when it came to true 3D design, my skills and tools were sadly lacking.
In a previous position I designed and 3D printed some sample display assets, and last year my wife and son decided I needed a 3D printer of my own, so I have some CAD experience, but everything I’d done was with the free TinkerCAD software, which is extremely limited. But by designing some of the complex shapes in Illustrator and exporting as an svg file to be imported into TinkerCAD, I was able to get around a lot of the limitations. Eventually, though, those limitations became too much so I finally listened to the advice of others and signed up for the free Fusion 360 “startup” license.
For anyone interested in learning CAD, CAM & CAE software, I cannot recommend this highly enough. A design engineer I used to work with recommended it to me and I can only kick myself for waiting so long to download it.
Like most professional CAD/CAM software, there is a steep learning curve, but there are tons of tutorials online, through autodesk themselves as well as from other design professionals. It also really helps having a son who is somewhat experienced with solidworks to give me pointers, but there is plenty of information and helpful forums on line for those of you without engineering students to rely on.
My first Fusion 360 project from scratch was a speedloader/thumbsaver for a 9mm. It went through a couple iterations to get where I wanted it, but it turned out great and was an awesome learning experience. Now I just have to come up with my next project.